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Orange officials envision future of county’s Route 3 corridor

The future of Orange County’s State Route 3 corridor has moved one step forward on the road from dream to reality.

Following a two-day joint retreat that ended Sunday, three major groups involved in planning for the future of the county’s designated primary economic development area—the Board of Supervisors, Economic Development Authority, and Planning Commission—reached what one participant called “a surprising amount of consensus.”

All three bodies committed to continuing to work together to develop and accomplish their common Route 3 Strategic Vision Plan, which they summed up as creating a “go-to” location, a place that is important, feels good and looks good.

While acknowledging that there was still a great deal of room for input from the community, the group reached considerable agreement on where they wanted the corridor to be in 20 years.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Teel Goodwin praised those involved for “hammering out a cohesive plan for what we want, and devising steps to actually get there.”

Some themes agreed upon for Route 3’s future included a place to live, work and play—clearly differentiated from other places—that would provide economic advantages for the entire county. The participants envisioned an aesthetically pleasing design reflecting Orange County’s best image, and including high quality business, industry, commercial and residential components.

They also embraced the need to maintain what is currently attractive about the county, while minimizing traffic impact. In addition, they want to create an area well integrated with the historic, cultural, recreational and educational assets of the region, aiming for beautiful development with preservation of the area’s natural assets.

Two immediate actions agreed upon were forming a group to contact and gather feedback from the landowners involved, and scheduling a “visioning tour” for the three groups to five Virginia sites that might provide ideas for further refinement of the vision plan.

Those areas include: West Creek in Goochland, Innsbruck and Short Pump in Henrico, City Center in Newport News, and Newtown in James City.

County Administrator Julie Summs said the tour is designed to “actually see, feel and utilize ideas from those areas,” as well as to learn some best practices from those who were responsible for developing them.

Wrapping up the retreat session, facilitator A. Tyler St. Clair of Lynchburg summarized that, from her viewpoint, the important number from the sessions was 90 percent—the groups’ estimate of their level of agreement on the vision plan at this point. She characterized it as “tremendous agreement about direction.”

She also noted that she had been “really amazed” that the groups had not only derived plans, but actual timetables in which to accomplish those plans. “You actually dared,” she said, “to say, ‘We need to get moving on this.’”

Dan McFarland: